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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Calling all geeks, artists and green innovators to Penn Avenue!

Penn Avenue is not just for art anymore.

Spring is a season of renewal and regeneration--processes associated with the creative act--so it's an ideal time to for the third annual Geek Art/Green Innovator's Festival--known simply as GA/GI (that's GAH-gee)--to transform Penn Ave. into an urban lab for experimentation, invention and even some mistakes we can all learn from.

We've all read about (in Pop City of course) Pittsburgh being a nexus for groundbreaking technologies, and we know the city's legacy is steeped in game-changing invention and innovation, so now it's time to experience it firsthand.

To present the one-of-a-kind event, GA/GI founder Christine Bethea has teamed up with Unblurred, the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative's popular monthly gallery crawl, which serves as HQ for the living showcase. Super-sizing Unblurred, GA/GI is presenting catalytic programming across three action packed days on April 5th, 6th and 7th. Expected to draw some 3,000 festival-goers, last year's event set attendance records along the East End corridor.

Ready to go beta?

GA/GI's third annual installment boasts more than 100 artists, students, techies and eco-freaks, the participation of six universities, and over 30 venues located between 4900 and 5490 Penn Ave. A virtual tossed salad of artists, green innovators and techies, GA/GI will also feature live dance and performance, visual art exhibitions and installations, loads of hands-on demos and workshops, and the festival's signature eco-minded fashion show.

When discussing the festival's unique mission, founder/organizer Christine Bethea, who previously worked for KQV News, KDKA-TV and the East Liberty Chamber of  Commerce, conveys a contagious passion:

"Our dream is to become the art and technology corridor for the city. We want the experimental and the emerging here. "You can touch it, feel it see it, and talk about it. We're starting to draw eco-, tech- and arts-friendly people to the Avenue--which is really a microcosm of Pittsburgh--and events like GA/GI cement that. We're putting it on the map and in a neighborhood and that's is what makes us so unique," says Bethea. "We never want the GA/GI Festival to seem stuck or stodgy. That's why we always look to mix things up."

First launched in 2010 as a key event of World Environment, GA/GI is produced by Passports Art Diversity Project, in partnership with the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, Friendship Development Associates, and Penn Avenue Arts Initiative. In order to encourage collaboration and allow participants to test market their products and programs, GA/GI showcases projects that are newly formed or in-progress. The three-day event also provides plenty of opportunities for creative minds of all ilks--from the Ivory Tower to the art studio--to network, experiment and try out wild new ideas.

What's new this year?

New collaborations with Google, ToonSeum, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and the Union Project will help bring the mission and focus of GA/GI into a variety of settings, extending the event's guiding concepts into multiple arts disciplines and widening its audience.

In partnership with Downtown-based ToonSeum, GA/GI is presenting Pittsburgh's first cartoon mini-convention. The festivities kick off on April 5th at 6 p.m. at the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation community center (113 N. Pacific St.), and will feature emerging cartoonists and illustrators, animations, projections, and children's activities.

It will be a Great Friday on April 6th, when GA/GI and Unblurred join forces to re-animate Penn Ave. This eco-tech themed art crawl will showcase dozens of mind-bending exhibitions at galleries and businesses from 6 p.m. to midnight. Festival-goers will enjoy technology displays, cutting-edge fashion, eco-themed spoken word performances, local food, and music for all ages.

GA/GI's signature eco-fashion show has been rewired to include a mass designer trunk show that will spill out into the crowds and venues. Dubbed March of the Fashionistas, the haute couture plein air extravaganza will feature models strutting through art spaces, designers and boutique owners selling eco-, tech- and vintage-inspired clothing and jewelry, and live glassblowing demos.

Where to begin?

Start your GA/GI quest at at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, where you can pick up a festival schedule. The majority of GA/GI events are free.

At Optimus Tech, explore a fuel system that retrofits traditional engines and burns cleaner fuel, and meet its talented builder. Modernformations Gallery will host Eyes Right: New Mixed Media Work, featuring collages composed of salvaged wood, discarded images, paper, and paint made by Tate Hudson.

Stop by Garfield Artworks to see Unraveling, the inaugural exhibition by new artist-run association, Siren Studio. The mixed-media exhibition features installations, sound art, paintings, and fabric manipulation by Lynn Ratkovich, Monica Cervone McElwain, Kelly Jane Walker, Jamie B Miller and Bevin Baker, as well as music by DJ Mosaic. At 5116 Penn, experience Darrell Workman's TV oscilloscopes and a giant collage made from with hundreds of hand-cut papers.

Ready to explore a post-digital world? Head to Assemble to discover architecture and design devoid of permanence and stability with Virginia Tech scholar, Benjamin Rice. View projections of recently-discovered "car-toons" and a short film presented by GASP (Group Against Smog & Pollution), and examine our region's long history of fighting for cleaner air.

Experiment with the wondrous scientific materials that middle school kids get to see (but adults usually don’t!) inside the Pitt Mobile Science Lab's 80-foot retrofitted trailer, where you can channel your inner tinkerer. Drop into Edge Studio to see Gordon Kirkwood's photographs of lightning bolts and everyday objects, and head to Tee Rex to rev up your spring wardrobe with affordable hand-printed tees by local designers.

Join the Kelly Strayhorn Theater for the inaugural installation of Living Exhibit, a dynamic presentation of the art of Steelpan construction, history and playing techniques. Enjoy light refreshments as master artist Phil Solomon and instructor Mat Docktor share the scientific intricacies and artistic beauty behind these culturally rich instruments.

On April 7th, head to the Union Project for a family-friendly "Monster Open House." Kicking off with a 9:30 a.m. breakfast, the day-long event features a community clean-up, puppet projects, paper-making, ceramics activities, and hands-on art projects led by Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Art Energy Design. The community-based showcase wraps up with a "family a-go-go" dance party.

Still standing after the crawl? Hit the dance floor at Brillobox with a night of Balkan-tinged beat-heavy tunes curated
by DJ Pandemic.

This week, Geek + Art + Green is the only equation you'll need to know.

Want a sneak peek? Check out GA/GI's video of past events.

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